The Mount Desert Island Biological Laboratory (MDIBL) in Salisbury Cove, Maine, has received a $3.75 million, five-year National Institutes of Health grant to develop a Comparative Toxicogenomics Database focusing on aquatic species. Slated to go online in 2006, it will be the first database in the world to provide genetic information on aquatic species to the international scientific community (See also, A.J.S. Rayl, "How to create a successful fish tale," The Scientist, 15:1, Aug. 20, 2001). The primary goal of the project is to create a prototype database of cataloged information on aquatic species genes that are relevant to environmental toxicology and human health. "By comparing the sequence and function of genes between aquatic species and humans, this database will offer new insights and findings about how toxins [affect] human tissues," says Yale University hepatologist James Boyer, director of MDIBL's Center for Membrane Toxicity Studies and principal investigator on the grant. Awarded by the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS), the grant is the single largest in the MDIBL's 102-year history and is the NIH's latest nod to aquatic species. "As a physician-scientist, I look at things from a mammalian perspective too, but I've worked at MDIBL for 30 years and have always held the belief that these aquatic organisms have a lot to teach us about human life," says Boyer. "It's only become more and more true as the DNA sequences come out. We know that these proteins [in aquatic species] are coded for genes and are carrying out essentially the same functions as mammalian genes. Because of the evolutionary distance between aquatic and mammalian species, we have an opportunity to really learn more about the critical aspects of our own genetic material."